Anniversaries are normally something we celebrate and that was very much my intention as, at the end of March this year, it was a year since I received my life-saving heart transplant at Harefield Hospital. However, as I know all too well, sometimes life has other plans for you.

Since my transplant, life has been incredible. I have discovered a new lease of life and I have a better perspective on things. My energy levels were slowly coming back as I recovered from the surgery and things were getting back on track. Unfortunately, in August, I hit my first major bump in the road and had to be re-admitted to Harefield. I had managed to contract double pneumonia. It was a difficult seven weeks but, with a week or so in ITU and the care and professionalism of the Harefield staff, they got me back on my feet again. I’d had a glitch, a very serious glitch, but I was still here and ready to fight back to health again.

When Covid19 started to become a threat to us all, I think all of the transplant community probably shared the same feeling, and that was one of major concern. That said, as transplant patients, we had all been washing and sanitising our hands before it became so front and centre in the public eye. Our very existence is dependent on our vigilance with regard to infection and hygiene. But this was turning into a global pandemic and we are still very much in the shadow of it.

So, the end of March should have been a time of acknowledgement and celebration for me as I marked the first year with my new heart. I achieved this to a certain extent but, despite all of my caution and vigilance, I was feeling unwell. As the days went by, I felt worse and worse until, eventually, my GP rang for an ambulance. It duly took me to my local hospital where my temperature was recorded at 40.1 C.

Two days later, the local hospital confirmed my fears, I had tested positive for the Covid19 virus. My initial thoughts were for my new heart and then my lungs, which had already fought through the double pneumonia last year. I was exhausted, weak and feverish. I couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was drink. I have never felt so unwell. After a few days at my local hospital, I was transferred to Harefield. The main reason for this was so that they could provide the necessary expertise in relation to my transplant while they tried to rid me of the virus.

It would be fair to say, I don’t really remember much of the first two weeks. I was either asleep or lying in bed with a temperature and feeling totally rotten. I lost seven kilos in that time and became weak from not only the virus but the effects of bed rest. I didn’t want to eat, just drink and sleep.

My transplant team had moved me to a 'red' ward where patients were either still positive and being treated or were better and could be transferred to an 'amber' ward for discharge. I was told that the antibiotics I required to treat the virus may have an effect on my heart so I was placed on telemetry for most of the time. As I initially feared, I didn’t want anything to happen to my precious gift. I was quite worried.

To say that all NHS staff are currently working under extreme conditions is an understatement. During my admission, all of the ward nurses, staff and doctors wore several layers of PPE to ensure that they could continue treating as many patients as possible. They must have been sweltering yet, they always had a kind word and their care and understanding were excellent. 

I was in Harefield for a total of five weeks and they are some of the hardest weeks I remember. Due to my immunosuppressed state, it took me a long time to fight the virus off but, eventually, I did. But, it wasn’t just about being unwell. We are living in unprecedented times and social contact has to be severely restricted. This, however, meant that I could receive no visitors and that was another aspect that was so hard.

But, once again, the staff at Harefield have 'pulled me out of the water'. It wasn’t the first twelve months I had planned but I am still here to tell the tale. I cannot thank the hospital enough for what it has and keeps doing for me. It truly is an excellent place.

I am now back home and I have returned to complete shielding. We are still learning about this virus so, for the moment, I am taking every single precaution. It feels so good to be back home again where I can regain my strength and energy again. Another bump in the road but I know I have done this before so I can do it again.

My sincerest thanks again to all of the staff at Harefield for what they have done for me. 

Please stay safe and well, all of you x

Read more about Dave's heart transplant journey